Space cadets Branson and Bezos scoop the 2021 shamelessness prize | Richard Branson


Every Christmas, Observer Enterprise Agenda casts its eye over the yr that was, searching for to highlight the enterprise luminaries whose deeds may in any other case have gone unrecognised. At first look 2021 seemed awfully much like 2020 – a pandemic, numerous lockdowns and a brand new wave of infections to spherical all of it off – nevertheless it quickly turned clear that there have been nonetheless candidates worthy of particular recognition.

Sir Richard Branson award for self-promotion

And the winner is … Sir Richard Branson. The eponymous award winner has taken his ego to the final place it had but to colonise: house. We’re in fact used to billionaire oneupmanship, however the place yachts have been the plaything of selection, now it’s rockets.

After Branson’s years of unfulfilled guarantees {that a} launch was simply round the nook, it was very important that his firm, Virgin Galactic, made it into house (or close to it, in keeping with some contested definitions of the place the ambiance ends) earlier than rivals. So he cannily waited for Bezos to set a launch date for his oddly “anthropomorphic” spaceship in July – then jumped in together with his personal 9 days earlier.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos left his employees in little doubt as to how grateful he was for exhausting work that funded a visit to house. {Photograph}: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Pictures

Sports activities Direct award for excellent financial contribution to the boss

But Bezos can absolutely not really feel too exhausting carried out by on this yr’s awards. In spite of everything, he has already introduced our subsequent gong: to Amazon’s employees for funding his personal jaunt past the ambiance.

“I wish to thank each Amazon worker and each Amazon buyer, since you guys paid for all of this,” the Stetsoned billionaire gushed in July after touchdown again on Earth. Staff campaigning for union recognition in the firm’s famously intense warehouses will in fact settle for his gratitude and by no means carry it up at wage negotiations.

Shell’s Ben van Beurden
Shell’s Ben van Beurden and different bosses confirmed exceptional head-burying abilities. {Photograph}: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

Alok Sharma award for local weather motion

Whereas it was his failure to part out coal that introduced the UK’s chair of the Cop26 local weather talks to tears, this yr’s honour as soon as once more goes to the oil business. The UK supermajors, led by Ben van Beurden at Shell and the unimprovable Bernard Looney of BP, plus ExxonMobil and Chevron in the US, all managed to bury their heads even additional in the sand. This was regardless of a sequence of shareholder rebellions, led by tiny marketing campaign group Comply with This, which recommended that they might simply have to consider lowering their carbon footprints. The oil firms determined as a substitute to kick the can down the street by signing as much as minimize emissions whereas additionally drilling for extra oil. Bravo.

Mark Zuckerberg with his avatar
Mark Zuckerberg together with his avatar as Fb modified its identify to Meta. {Photograph}: Reuters

Samuel Johnson award for patriotism

Coming an in depth second in the race for “final refuge of the scoundrel” was the Trump household, after each Donald and Ivanka Trump described the rioters storming the US Capitol as “patriots”. However neither managed to spectacularly misunderstand love for nation whereas additionally using an electrical surfboard and waving the star-spangled banner. Step ahead, Mark Zuckerberg! The Fb boss posted a minute-long video on Instagram of himself on US Independence Day using above the water on an efoil board (about $10,000 a pop) to the backing of John Denver’s Nation Roads.

This wasn’t the solely time Zuckerberg performed as much as his public picture as billionaire nerd to questionable impact throughout 2021: a joke about his robotic manner fell notably flat throughout a video asserting Fb’s rebrand as Meta. Meta desires to host the subsequent technology of the web (and it additionally offers it a useful excuse to distance itself from the controversies of its money-spinning social community).

George Osborne award for being completely in every single place

The UK’s former chancellor was comparatively younger when he was booted out of the job, so shortly turned his hand to filling his time with as many different gigs as he might. (His newest this yr: a job at an funding financial institution – in recognition, we suppose, of his report for canny monetary administration.)

This yr the gong in his honour goes to the complete non-public fairness business, which has managed to go from area of interest concern of the monetary pages to proprietor of what looks as if most of British business. Supermarkets (Morrisons), pubs (Punch), aerospace (Cobham), nuclear submarines (Extremely Electronics) … there appears to be no door a giant wodge of money can’t open – besides, for LV=, a mutual the place regular folks truly had a say.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, who boldly commandeered the SEC’s personal acronym. {Photograph}: Mike Blake/Reuters

Wisconsin Tourism Federation award for worst acronym

A dishonourable point out for this award should first go to the man who turned the world’s richest at the starting of the yr, Elon Musk. In retaliation for being punished for inventory manipulation, Musk hijacked the Securities Change Fee’s abbreviation, tweeting: “SEC, three letter acronym, center phrase is Elon’s.”

However the winners of the yr’s least-loved initialism award are NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which turned mainstream in 2021. Principally take the utopian Wikipedia-esque superb of endlessly shareable digital data (say an art work or a video clip), and discover a technique to make it scarce and unique like in the bodily world so it may be offered at a giant revenue. There could be some use for the expertise, however 2021 didn’t ship it.